Pseudomonas is a name for a group of bacteria. The most common species of this bacteria is pseudomonas aeruginosa.
You find pseudomonas in the environment, in water and in soil and plants. But it also grows in biofilm in man-made plumbing and water systems. It can cause lung infections in people and is resistant to commonly-used antibiotics. This can make it hard to treat.
Pseudomonas can spread to people if they are exposed to water, soil or plants that are contaminated. It can also spread from one person to another through contaminated surfaces, hands or equipment. The bacteria can spread in this way in hospitals and healthcare facilities.
These settings are where the most serious infections tend to occur. Symptoms of pseudomonas will vary depending on the type of infection.
How Does a Person Get Pseudomonas?
There are various ways that a person can get pseudomonas:
- It can grow on fruit and vegetables, so someone could catch it from contaminated food.
- It thrives in moist places, such as bathrooms, sinks, kitchens, pools and hot tubs.
- It can be present in humidifiers.
- Pseudomonas can grow in hospitals and healthcare facilities, on medical equipment and in air conditioning systems.
Generally, pseudomonas does not lead to serious illness outside a hospital or healthcare setting.
According to official figures, there were 4,745 reported cases of pseudomonas in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2018.
Is Pseudomonas Harmful to Humans?
Pseudomonas is most harmful to people with existing health conditions, which is why it is more likely to infect hospital patients who are already sick.
Pseudomonas can cause several different infections:
- Urinary tract infections
- Gastro-intestinal system infections
- Wound infections.
It can also cause mild skin infections and ear infections in some people. Eye infections are rarer. People who are healthy may have pseudomonas growing on moist areas of skin but without any health effects. This is known as colonisation.
The seriousness of the infection depends on the type of infection it is, and how early the infected person gets antibiotic treatment.
Patients with bloodstream infections or blood cancers are more likely to die as a result of pseudomonas infection, according to research.
Is Pseudomonas Contagious?
In healthcare settings, pseudomonas can spread from person to person. This can happen through contaminated hands, surfaces and equipment.
People who are already ill and being treated in hospital are especially vulnerable.
What Are the Symptoms of Pseudomonas?
Because pseudomonas can affect any part of the body, and symptoms will therefore vary.
Infections are most likely to affect the ears, skin, lungs, soft tissue and blood. Bloodstream infections from pseudomonas tend to be more severe.
Common pseudomonas symptoms include:
- Lungs – coughing and congestion and pneumonia symptoms
- Blood – stiffness, joint pain, fever, chills, fatigue
- Ears – pain, itching and liquid discharge
- Skin –rashes, which may become pus-filled pimples
- Eyes – pain and redness
- Urinary tract – frequent urge to urinate, painful urination, odour in urine, cloudy or bloody urine, pelvic pain
- Wound infections – inflammation, fluid leakage
- Soft tissue – pus discharge and sweet, fruity smell.
Who is Most at Risk?
Those most at risk include people with:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Severe burns
- Wounds from surgery.
Pseudomonas can affect people who have weak or problematic immune systems.
Pregnant women are at a higher risk of contracting pseudomonas due to how hormone changes affect their immune systems.
People suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are more vulnerable too.
There has been research conducted into pseudomonas as a cause of infections among infants in neonatal intensive care units.
How is Pseudomonas Spread?
Generally, the risk of pseudomonas infection for healthy people is low. However, in certain settings, there is more scope for it to spread.
People who are hospitalised for a range of medical conditions are more vulnerable, and therefore hospitals themselves provide fertile ground for the bacteria.
If a patient has had an incision for a surgical procedure, then this type of open wound can increase their risk of becoming infected. Patients on ventilators are at risk too.
If there has been insufficient cleaning of catheters and other medical equipment, then these things can become sources of infection and the spread of pseudomonas.
Healthcare workers can spread pseudomonas from person to person if they have not washed their hands carefully enough.
The risk of contamination from pseudomonas is one of the reasons hospitals have banned visitors from bringing flowers onto wards.
How Do You Avoid Getting a Pseudomonas Infection?
There are various measures individuals and institutions can take to avoid or prevent pseudomonas infection.
A key factor is practising good hygiene:
- Washing hands regularly with soap and water – using liquid rather than bar soap, and not using nail brushes or flannels
- Not sharing towels
- Cleaning contaminated surfaces thoroughly using a surface disinfectant that is both safe and proven to be effective against bacteria
- Washing any contaminated clothes or sheets separately from other items, at the highest possible temperature.
In hospitals, staff with illnesses should avoid coming into work until at least 48 hours after their symptoms have cleared up.
Visitors to hospitals should follow strict guidelines, wash their hands with liquid soap and water, use hand sanitisers when entering wards, and avoid visiting hospital if they’re feeling unwell or have had diarrhoea.
Outside hospital and healthcare settings:
- Avoid unclean spa baths or hot tubs
- Rinse fruit and vegetables before eating them
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
People should take good care of their general health to help prevent pseudomonas infections. They should follow any prescriptive treatments from doctors, especially involving aftercare following surgery.
Another critical factor in preventing pseudomonas is water treatment. Like legionella, the bacteria can grow in biofilm on pipework and in plumbing systems.
How Do You Treat Pseudomonas Infections?
Health services in some areas will screen people for pseudomonas, by taking swabs from different areas of the body, such as nose and throat, armpits and groin.
Treatment for pseudomonas usually involves a course of antibiotics. In most cases, antibiotics will clear the infection, but the bacteria has become increasingly resistant to these drugs.
Many standard antibiotics are ineffective against pseudomonas. One that is, however, is ciprofloxacin. This is one of the family of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones. It is effective in treating bacterial infections, and infections where other antibiotics have failed.
If one course of antibiotics does not get rid of the infection, it may be necessary to have a further course. It may also be necessary to take antibiotics regularly to keep the pseudomonas infection under control.
Supporting Pseudomonas Prevention
Oxyl-Pro for hands and surfaces is effective against over 99.999% of bacteria, including pseudomonas. It is a highly versatile and effective disinfectant. It contains no harmful residues.
It is also a highly effective water treatment for removing the biofilm on pipework that enables pseudomonas to grow.
Oxyl-pro is based on hydrogen peroxide, so its only by-products are oxygen and water.